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Readers share stories of a century's worth of treasured family Christmas ornaments

Peeking out from fragrant pine branches, those oldest and most cherished Christmas ornaments symbolize love and laughter in those we hold dear. Some are chipped and worn, while others maintain their luster. In the Tampa Bay area, these are some of the ornaments that, no doubt with Christmas just nine days away, have been hung with care. Many thanks to all the readers who shared their stories about their treasured ornaments.

-- Mimi Andelman, LifeTimes editor

Whether I put it on the tree myself or if I walk into my mother’s home and find it perched on a top branch, this angel brings a flood of emotion to me. No taller than a business card on its side, she was first hung on our tree by my parents upon hearing that I was born and would soon be put in their arms. And I am reminded that a teenager was given a gift, one that she in turn gave to my parents, the selfless act of giving a baby up for adoption. This tiny angel to me signifies faith, hope and love. Faith that there are those who still believe in doing the right thing no matter how difficult, hope for all those who face difficult decisions, and love, knowing there’s plenty to be given by others in the world . . . which is what the spirit of Christmas is all about.

Robin Mederos, 40, with her mom, Louise Hall, 74, both of Tampa

A rocking horse, given to my father on his first Christmas 91 years ago, remains suspended from a brass hook under a glass dome. Its fine silver glitter and foil still shine and this simple ornament reminds me of the spirit of our father, who died in an accident when my siblings and I were just small children. It's a wonderful keepsake, as Daddy loved horses and Christmas.

Linda W. Davis, 58, Oldsmar

My cherished Christmas ornament is a battered ceramic rabbit my father found and transformed into an ornament — painting the ears red and tying old electrical wire around it to hang from the tree. An ear was shattered by a crooked tree that refused to stand. My ornament stays out all year, honoring my wonderful father, whose love, creativity and resourcefulness live on.

Kathy Thrombley Hios, 50, Clearwater

I do not remember a Christmas tree without my bisque girl sitting in her swing. She was brought to the United States by my Norwegian grandmother. No more than 3 inches tall, she dates to around 1896, the year my dad was born. When my mom and dad married in the 1920s, the little girl — and her matching brother — made the move to our home, and my brother and I enjoyed them as children. When he and I were grown and starting our own families in the 1950s, the pair were split, one for each of us. The little boy would be lost to a divorce when belongings were taken away and boxed up in a long-forgotten storage space far from home. Perhaps the contents were one day sold. Every year, I think of the family who may swing the little boy on their tree, and hope they cherish him as much as I cherish the girl.

Peg LeFebvre, 79, Palm Harbor

My grandmother first placed our angel on her tree in 1888. It has stayed in the family these many years, and was "retired" a few years ago from tree duty and is now framed to protect it from the elements (cats, husband, me). The only thing changed on it is the center panel, which disintegrated over the years and was replaced with a little piece of fabric.

Missy Martino, 66, St. Petersburg

Joe and I were good friends in high school and after graduating in 1965 it wasn't long before we were "going steady." When Joe returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam we got engaged, and were married on Dec. 20, 1969. For our first Christmas together, we decorated the tree with the bows from our wedding presents. A silver bell was attached to one of the bows and every year we would put it on our tree. The bow eventually came apart but the silver bell only got a little tarnished. We polish it and always find a special spot on our tree. This year our silver bell hangs on our 40th Christmas tree.

Linda and Joe Manninen, both 62, Oldsmar

My mom brought a pickle ornament from her home in Germany when she came to the United States in 1920. The pickle now hangs on my Christmas tree every year, and occasionally I bring the pickle to my third-grade class at Keswick Christian School in St. Petersburg. At home, whoever first finds the pickle gets to open the first present. At school, whoever finds the pickle gets a homework pass.

Eleanor Baumner, Seminole

A Christmas card was mistakenly sent to my family in 1945 where we lived in a small town in Ohio. There was no return address and my parents did not recognize the name of the person who sent it. So we kept it, and popped it on our tree. The inside message is long gone, but the cute little winking Santa Claus on the front of the card has been on my parents' trees and now on my family's tree for 64 years now.

Carolyn Mooney, 68, Palmetto

My mom didn't believe in keeping "stuff," but I cherish the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ornament I was given at Christmas 1950 at age 5 after having my tonsils out. He isn't fancy or elaborate. Rudolph is hard plastic with a faded, painted red bow around his neck, and, of course, a red nose. He has traveled with me to 13 living rooms in six states, on large and small trees, real and artificial, in happy and sad times. After 59 years this little reindeer, the oldest item of my own that I possess, has never been the center of my Christmas celebrations, but he has always been there, a constant in my life.

Sue Boone, 64, Largo

A cardboard Santa was my late Dad's, who got it in 1929, of all years, from a Christmas club at a bank in Springfield, Mass. It is the first ornament I hang on our tree every year and the last to be taken off. One year I misplaced it. Sitting on our living room floor crying, I told myself that if I had accidentally given it away, then I hoped whoever found him got as much joy as I had. The next year, as I opened my angel box, there he lay! That was a miracle.

Barbara Marrs, 68, Holiday

Readers share stories of a century's worth of treasured family Christmas ornaments 12/15/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 4:12pm]
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